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MARY MOTHER OF JESUS, MOTHER OF GOD Part IVa: Mary’s Perpetual Virginity “. . . and the virgin's name was Mary. ” (Luke 1: 27)
The Catholic Catechism 499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth “did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it. ” And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever virgin”.
Mary's Perpetual Virginity Dogma: Mary was a Virgin before, during and after the Birth of Jesus Christ. (De fide; it must be believed to be a Catholic and to remain a Catholic) The Lateran Synod, 649, Pope Martin I “The blessed ever virginal and immaculate Mary. . . she conceived without seed, of the Holy Spirit, generated without injury (to her virginity), and her virginity continued unimpaired after the birth. (D 256) Pope Paul IV, 1555 “The Blessed Virgin Mary. . . persisted in the integrity of virginity, namely, before bringing forth, at bringing forth and always after bringing forth. ” D 993 Mary's virginity includes a constant virginal disposition, freedom from inordinate motions of sexual desire, and physical integrity. The Church doctrine refers primarily to Her bodily integrity.
Virginity Before the Birth of Jesus Dogma: Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit without the cooperation of man. (De fide; it must be believed to be a Catholic and to remain a Catholic) Early opponents of the virginal conception of Mary were the Jews and the pagans (Celsus, Julian the Apostate, Cerinth, and the Ebionites). In modern times, the Rationalists seek to derive the belief in the Immaculate Conception either from Isaiah 7: 14 or from pagan mythology. The Church's faith in Mary's (active) virginal conception is expressed in all the creeds of Faith. Apostles' Creed (c. 700 AD) “Who (Mary) was conceived by the Holy Spirit. ”
The New Testament affirms Mary’s virginity. Luke 1: 26 The angel Gabriel was sent from God. . . to a virgin. . . and the virgin's name was Mary's virginal conception was already foretold in the Old Testament by the Prophet Isaiah in the famous Emmanuel prophecy. Isaiah 7: 14 Therefore the Lord Himself shall give a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel (God with us). The Jews did not recognize this passage as Messianic. From the beginning however Christians took it as referring to the Messiah, since the sign had been fulfilled.
Matthew 1: 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” which means "God is with us. ” The Jewish objection that the Septuagint wrongly rendered the Hebrew word ha 'alma by e parthenos (the virgin), instead of by e neanis (the young woman) (thus Aquilas, Theodotion, Symmachus), is unfounded, . The word ha 'alma in biblical language means an untouched marriageable maiden. Compare Genesis 24, 43 with Genesis 24, 16; Exodus 2, 8, Psalms 67, 26. The context demands the interpretation “virgin”; for an extraordinary sign would exist only if a virgin, as a virgin, conceives and gives birth.
The fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah is narrated by Matthew and Luke. Matthew 1: 18 When Mary His mother was espoused to Joseph before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1: 34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man! And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. As Mary was living in lawful wedlock with Joseph, the latter was the legal father of Jesus. Luke 3: 23 When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli;
The Fathers affirm and attest the virginal conception of Mary with complete unanimity. St. Ignatius of Antioch “Truly born of a virgin. ” Starting with St. Justin, the Fathers defend the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 7: 14, and stress that the words are to be understood in such a manner, that the Mother of the Emmanuel conceived and brought forth while still remaining a virgin. Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 43; 66 68; 77; Apol. I 33; St. Irenaeus, Adv. haer. III 21 ; Origen, Contra Celsum I 34 et seq. , St. Thomas, S. Th III 28, I.
Virginity During the Birth of Jesus Dogma: Mary bore her Son without any violation of her virginal integrity. (De fide on the ground of the general promulgation of doctrine; it must be believed to be Catholic and to remain a Catholic. ) The dogma merely asserts the fact of the continuance of Mary's physical virginity without determining more closely how this is to be physiologically explained. In general the Fathers and the Theologians conceived it as non injury to the hymen, and accordingly taught that Mary gave birth in miraculous fashion without opening of the womb and injury to the hymen, and consequently also without pains (cf. S. Th. III 28, 2). However, according to modern natural scientific knowledge, the purely physical side of virginity consists in the non fulfilment of the sex act (“sex act virginity”) and in the non contact of the female egg by the male seed (“seed act virginity”).
Thus, injury to the hymen in birth does not destroy virginity, while, on the other hand, its rupture seems to belong to complete natural motherhood. It follows from this that from the concept of virginity alone the miraculous character of the process of birth cannot be inferred, if it cannot be, and must not be derived from other facts of Revelation. Holy Scripture attests Mary's active role in the act of birth. Matthew 1: 25 He (Joseph) had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. Luke 2: 7 While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. This scripture does not seem to indicate a miraculous process.
But the Fathers, with few exceptions, vouch for the miraculous character of the birth. However, the question is whether in so doing they attest a truth of Revelation or whether they wrongly interpret a truth of Revelation, that is, Mary’s virginity, from an inadequate natural scientific point of view. It seems hardly possible to demonstrate that the dignity of the Son of God or the dignity of the Mother of God demands a miraculous birth. Mary’s virginity during the birth of Jesus was contested in the Early Church by Tertullian (De carne Christi 23) and especially by Jovinian, an opponent of the Church ideal of virginal purity; and in modern times by Rationalists. Jovinian's teaching (the virgin conceived, but as a virgin did not give birth) was rejected at a Synod at Milan (AD 390) under the presidency of St. Ambrose which recalled the invocation of the Apostles’ Creed “born of the Virgin Mary. ” Her virginity during the birth of Jesus is included in the title of honor “perpetual virgin” (aeiparthenos), which was given to Mary by the Fifth General Council at Constantinople (AD 553) (D 214, 218, 227).
The doctrine is expressly taught by Pope St. Leo I in the Epistola Dogmatica ad Flavianum (Ep. 28, 2) which was approved by the Council of Chalcedon (451). It was taught also by the Lateran Synod (649) and by Pope Paul IV (1555) (D 256, 993). Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, “It was she who gave miraculous birth to Christ our Lord. ” The Church's general teaching is expressed in her Liturgy also. For instance, the responsorium to the fifth Lesson of the Feast of Christmas, and to the eighth Lesson of the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.
Isaiah 7: 14 announced that the maiden (as a virgin) would give birth. The Fathers also, in a typical sense, refer to the virgin birth of Our Lord the words of the Prophet Ezekiel on the closed gates. Ezekiel 44: 2 He said to me: This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed. Cf. St. Ambrose Ep. 42, 6; St. Jerome, Ep. 49, 21); the words of the Prophet Isaiah on the painless birth (Isaiah 66: 7; cf. St. Irenaeus, Epis. 54; St. John Damascene, De fide orth. IV 14: and the words of the Song of Songs on the closed garden and the sealed well. (Hl. 4, 12; cf. St. Jerome, Adv. Jov. I 31, Ep. 49, 21) St. Ignatius of Antioch characterizes, not merely Mary's virginity, but also the bringing forth of her Son as a “mystery which must be proclaimed aloud. ” (Eph. 19, 1)
Christ's virginal birth is accepted without question in the apocryphal writings of the second century (Odes of Solomon, 19, 7 et seq. ; Proto-Evangelium of St. James, 19 et seq. ; Ascension into Heaven of Isaiah, II, 7 et seq. ), and also by Church authors such as St. Irenaeus (Epid. 54; adv. haer. III 21, 4 6); St. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VII 16, 93); Origen (In. Lev. horn. 8, 2; otherwise in Luc. ham. 14); St. Ambrose (Ep. 42, 4 7); St. Jerome (Adv. Jov. I 31; Ep. 49, 21); and St. Augustine (Enchir. 34). defend the traditional Church doctrine against Jovinian.
For the illustration of the mystery, the Fathers and Theologians employ various analogues— the emergence of Christ from the sealed tomb, His going through closed doors, the penetration of the ray of sun through glass, the birth of the Logos from the bosom of the Father, the going out of human thought from the human spirit. Christ's miraculous emergence from the unimpaired womb of the Virgin Mother finds its ultimate explanation in the Omnipotence of God. St. Augustine “In such things the whole ground of the mystery is the might of Him who permits it to happen. ” (Ep. 137, 2, 8; cf. S. Th. III 28, 2)
Virginity after the Birth of Jesus Dogma: After the birth of Jesus Mary remained a Virgin. (De fide; it must be believed to be a Catholic and to remain a Catholic) Mary's virginity after the birth of Jesus was denied in the Early Church by Tertullian (De monog. 8), Eunomius, Jovinian, Helvidius, Bonosus of Sardica and the Antidicomarianites. At the present day it is contested by the majority of Protestants, as well as by both the Liberal and the Conservative schools of thought. Pope St. Siricius (92) rejected the teaching of Bonosus. “Surely we cannot deny that regarding the sons of Mary the statement is censured, and your holiness has rightly abhorred it, that from the same virginal womb, from which according to the flesh Christ was born, another offspring was brought forth. ” (D 91)
Council of Constantinople II 553 Mary is given the title of honor “perpetual Virgin” (aeiparthnos). (D 214, 218, 227) Lateran Synod 649 “If anyone does not properly and truly confess in accord with the holy Fathers, that the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin and immaculate Mary in the earliest of the ages conceived of the Holy Spirit without seed, namely, God the Word Himself specifically and truly, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and that she incorruptibly bore Him, her virginity remaining indestructible even after His birth, let him be condemned. ” (D 256) Pope Paul IV 1555 “The depravity and iniquity of certain men. . . wander and deviate from the Catholic faith, presume to profess different heresies. . deny the foundations of the faith itself. . deny. . . that the same Blessed Virgin Mary. . . did not persist in the integrity of virginity. . . before bringing forth, at bringing forth, and after bringing forth (Jesus Christ). (D 993) The Liturgy also honors Mary as the “perpetual Virgin. ” The Church prays: “after birth, she persisted an inviolate virgin. ”
Holy Scripture only indirectly attests the continuance of Mary's virginity after the birth. From the question which Mary puts to the Angel: Luke 1: 34 How shall this be done, because I know not man? It is inferred that she had taken the resolve of constant virginity on the ground of a special Divine enlightenment. In the light of this text St. Augustine and many Fathers and theologians believed that Mary made a formal vow of virginity. However, the subsequent espousals can hardly be reconciled with this. It is noted that the fact that the dying Redeemer entrusted His Mother to the protection of the Disciple John 19: 26 Woman, behold your Son. This verse presupposes that Mary had no other children but Jesus.
Origin “By the ‘brethren of Jesus, ’ often named in the Holy Scriptures, and who are characteristically never called “sons of Mary” are to be understood near relatives of Jesus. Compare Mt. 13, 55 with Mt. 27, 56, John 19, 25 and Gal. I, 19. (In Ioan, 4 (6) 23) Luke 2: 7 And she brought forth her first born son. It cannot be inferred that Mary had more children after Jesus, as among the Jews an only son was also known as “first born son” because the “first born” had special privileges and duties. Matthew 1: 18 Before they came together, and Matthew 1: 25 He knew her not till she brought forth her first born son. assert that up to a definite point in time the marriage was not consummated, but not by any means that it was consummated after this. Cf. Gn. 8, 7; 2 Sm. 6, 23 ; Mt. 28, 20.
Among the Fathers many upheld the teaching of Mary's virginity after the birth of Jesus: Origen (In Luc. horn. 7. ); St. Ambrose (De inst. virg et S. Mariae virginitate perpetua), St. Jerome (De perpetua virginitate B. Mariae adv. Helvidium), St. Augustine (De haeresibus 56, 84), St. Epiphanius (Haer. 78; against the Antidicomarianites) St. Basil (329 – 379) “The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin. ” (Hom. in S. Christi generationem n. 5) Cf. St. John Damascene (676 – 754/787), De fide orth. IV. 14. S. tho III 28, 3. From the fourth century onwards the Fathers, for example Zeno of Verona (Tract. I 5, 3; II 8, 2), St. Augustine (Sermo 196, I, I ; De cat. rud. 22, 40), St. Peter Chrysologus (Sermo II 7) affirm the virginity of Mary in formulas, such as: The Virgin conceived, the Virgin gave birth, the Virgin remained a virgin) (St. Augustine, Sermos 51, II, 18).
Mary: Virgin and Ever Virgin All Christians believe that Mary was a virgin before and at the time of the birth of her son Jesus. Isaiah 7: 14 The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Matthew 1: 18 -25 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. ”
For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us. ’” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Luke 1: 26 -27 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. Nicene Creed (325), Constantinopolitan Creed (381) “. . . Who for us men and because of our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became human. ” Constantinople . . Nicea Catholic Christians and many other Christians also believe that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life. 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900 2000
Constant faith of the Church Great teachers of the Church from at least the fourth century spoke of Mary as having remained a virgin throughout her life: Athanasius (Alexandria, 293 373) Epiphanius (Palestine, 315? 403) Jerome (Stridon, present day Yugoslavia, 345? 419) Augustine (Numidia, now Algeria, 354 430) Cyril (Alexandria, 376 444) and others. Jerome Council of Constantinople Augustine Epiphanius Athansasius Cyril Magisterium of the Church Council of Constantinople II (553 - 554) twice referred to Mary as “ever virgin. ”
End of Mary the Series, Her Perpetual Virginity, Part IVa Go to Mary the Series, Her Perpetual Virginity, Part IVb